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August in Florence - A Month of Eating By NY C'hounds

Steve R Aug 2, 2013 11:18 AM

Yes, we know better than to think that this is the ideal time to be here for the best eating, but we've been here several times before so some well known places aren't essential to us (Sostanza, Cibreo, et al) & a good friend who now lives in Bklyn is coming home to be married here next week, so we'll brave the heat & force ourselves to have a good time anyway. Yeah, right ... tough life. We rented an apt. in Santa Croce & here we are, already 5 days in.

Well, we got to Trat. Cibreo before they started vacation & had an excellent inventive meal. In my opinion, this place still has it. If it remained open, we'd return.

I'll keep posting on this thread to update, but want to start by recommending Acquacotta on Via dei Pilastri, 51r. It's a family run place that's remaining open this month & is one of a vanishing breed of simple but talented cooking worth eating. We plan on returning again (in the interest of research, of course) & hopefully I wont have to eat my words on this.

More to follow... gotta go eat.

 
  1. j
    jangita Aug 5, 2013 02:51 PM

    Thanks for the reports--please keep them coming.
    I won't be in Firenze until next spring but I'm certainly bookmarking your thread.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jangita
      a
      allende Aug 25, 2013 11:28 AM

      @ Steve R

      Was that 120 euro price at le Barrique including wine? Could you tell me what wine you ordered and the price. I want to get an indication of the food prices and wine prices. Is there a coperto? Thanks.

      1. re: allende
        Steve R Aug 27, 2013 03:30 PM

        The 120euro tab included the wine. The food was only 73euro (millefouile 10euro, primi's 24euro for the 2, secondi 31euro for the 2, water 2.50euro and dolce 5.50euro), while the coperto was 5euro & the wine 42euro. It was a bottle of Berardo Chianti Classico Reserva, 2008. It was good but we've had better wine for the price in Florence & probably could've done better if we studied their list a little longer. Hope that's helpful.

    2. Steve R Aug 4, 2013 05:14 AM

      Living in Santa Croce puts us only a couple of blocks from the Mercato S. Ambrogio, where we are now regular customers. Outdoors, there is a stand with a very good hard cheese from Sardegna & a block of this is lasting nicely. Indoors, one of the cheese stands has a telegio we're liking as well. I've also grown fond of a loaf made from chicken, bought while we were hitting up another stand for the more usual cuts of meat. It's been great on bread w/mayo... my real "you're not from around here" treat. The cold tripe salad I bought at yet another stand is totally bland. Oh well.

      At the Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, there is Sant'Ambrogio cafe, where glasses of at least 25 different wines, as well as drinks (like my usual Aperol spritz) can be had inexpensively (4-6euros) & you can sit indoors at the bar or at a table either indoors or outdoors for no extra charge. Great people watching & friendly place -- highly recommended. We've been there at least 3 times & will keep going to hang out, drink & even read.

      Did i mention the excellent tripe & lapredotto stand just across from the bar, outside Trat. Cibreo? And the bakery on the corner? We love this area.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Steve R
        Steve R Aug 4, 2013 08:39 AM

        I just noticed that Eliz. Minchilli mentions my mysterious "chicken loaf" in one of her blog pieces (on panini in Florence). She calls it "Pollo in Galatina" & describes it very accurately as a cross between a meatloaf & a pate.

        1. re: Steve R
          minchilli Aug 12, 2013 12:48 PM

          I"m so glad you found pollo in galatina. It's one of my favorite old fashioned sandwiches, and getting so hard to find these days
          Am loving your reports on dining in August in Florence. I hope you're getting your gelato fixes too.

          www.ElizabethMinchilliInRome.com

      2. p
        PixieM Aug 3, 2013 01:38 AM

        Love the mention of Acquacotta Steve! We went to Florence just for the day a couple of years ago and this was my pick for lunch (it was John Talbott's recommendation)...and it was a memorable, simple, gorgeous meal....but I've never seen it mentioned on CH before....

        1 Reply
        1. re: PixieM
          Steve R Aug 22, 2013 08:53 AM

          We've been back & have brought friends. It always has enough business lunch & dinner, but is never crowded (I'm sure of this, as we're living 2 doors away). An under-rated gem & should be better known.

        2. Steve R Aug 2, 2013 02:12 PM

          Photos of the soup & eggplant flan (w/shrimp) at il Santo Bevitore (see below post).

           
           
          1. Steve R Aug 2, 2013 02:08 PM

            Last night we trekked over to the Oltr'arno & ate at il Santo Bevitore, via S.Spirito 64/66r. We ate in the big room, which was lively but classy, like a nice West Village place in Manhattan. Overall, it turned out to be somewhat uneven, but was good enough for a return visit if only they weren't going to close down for a couple of weeks. The bottle of Italian Malbec turned out to be a good choice & the apps. were absolutely excellent. I had a green pea soup w/almonds that really worked & Ginny had an eggplant sformatino that I wish I could gat back home. The pasta w/rabbit meat unfortunately had an ingredient that seemed to give it an undertone of bitterness that turned me off, but Ginny's burrata raviolo was fine (nothing more). We split an order of nicely done pork rib & loin. No room for dessert & further drinking would be done elsewhere. Glad we went but not on the short list for us.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Steve R
              Steve R Aug 8, 2013 03:01 PM

              Over the course of a # of years & several stays in Florence, we have never managed to eat at Trat. La Casalinga. My notes are full of recommendations to go & just as full of statements like "didnt get here (again)". Well, we found out that they're going on vacation till Sept (tomorrow's the last night), so we hit it up twice this week. As the name basically implies, nothing but solid home cooking. A place that'd be on our regular rotation if we lived here & that we'll come back to whenever we're here. The pastas are uniformly excellent & we've now had the perfect spag. w/pesto, the ravioli w/ butter & sage, and a rigatoni w/ a deep rich tomato sauce made w/ pork fat and mushrooms (a special on the menu that night) that I'll remember for quite awhile. The guinea fowl, the veal limone, and the bollito misto (included tripe & tongue) were all winners as well. Everything priced low, portions too big & service friendly. Very glad we didnt miss it this time.

              1. re: Steve R
                Steve R Aug 12, 2013 09:30 AM

                As Aug. moves on, the downside of restaurant eating becomes more & more apparent. Lots of places that come highly recommended have closed till Sept & we've missed several I've wanted to get to. But, since we've been here several times before, we'll live with memories of lampredotto at Nerbone & let necessity be the mother of ferreting out other places. Which brings me to "Pork's" in Central Market. Diagonally across the market, it commands roughly the same space, but has table service from the family, while dad carves a pig & chops big pieces of innards down to sandwich size. One porchetta sandwich (for Ginny, but I got some) & one innard sandwich w/hot sauce, salsa verde & "juice", and I all but forgot Nerbone. No bollito to be had, but a more extensive menu, with most passing plates looking good. We sat at 2 of the 4 stools in front of the "chef's counter" & watched him at work. A good lunch... I'm going to have to eat 2 lunches each time I return to Florence when Nerbone is open.

                 
                 
                1. re: Steve R
                  Steve R Aug 12, 2013 09:52 AM

                  While I'm listing some of the places we've gone to that were not on our advance list, let me also mention I Ghibbelini, an inexpensive semi-tourist place that is in a perfect location for us (Piazza San Pier Maggiore 8r, off Borgo degli Albizi). It has a nice number of tables inside & even a large room downstairs (for tour groups?), but the main charm of the place is its big covered outdoor area right in the Piazza. Perfect. We've been there twice for dinner now (no vacation time for them) & the food is quite good -- surprisingly so. The pastas are well made with fresh ingredients & obvious care & skill, the crostini, etc are as good as any we've had, & the mains are solid. Many folks seem to stick to what looks like above average pizzas, but I'd easily recommend a full dinner. Great bang for the buck and a very nice overall dining experience each time. We may even get back again.

                  1. re: Steve R
                    Steve R Aug 12, 2013 02:43 PM

                    Last night, at a late night bar gathering, some friends mentioned that they had stumbled upon a place for dinner earlier that evening & had had an excellent meal in the courtyard of the old prison in Santa Croce. So, tonight Ginny & I hiked east behind the St. Ambroggio market, down Via Dell'Agnolo, almost to its end (only 5 minutes) for our 8:30pm reservation. Inside P. Madonna Del Neve sits Le Carceri, a locals place if ever there was one, with families, young couples & even folks our age. By 9pm, all the courtyard tables were full and the place was in full swing when we left just after 11pm. Again, most of the business seems to be pizzas but, to tell the truth, they didn't look so good. Underdone, with a thinnish too flour-y look to them. We avoided them & had an excellent burrata app, then a very well made tagliatelle w/meaty ragu & then mains of chicken (stuffed breast w/cheese, fresh mushrooms & ham) for me & sliced steak in balsemic glaze over arugola for her (with me eating what she couldnt finish). A bottle of Vernaccia and coffees, with a more than reasonable 65euro total before tip. A lovely outdoor setting, a peaceful courtyard (the prisoners are long gone) & a very relaxing enjoyable dinner. If you're in the neighborhood...

                    1. re: Steve R
                      Steve R Aug 13, 2013 01:07 PM

                      Last week, we ate dinner at a small place just behind Piazza St. Ambrogio called Restorante Pizzeria Le Campane. All but the apps were good and the price point, combined with the 4 tables outdoors right in our neighborhood, made it fine, as the pastas & mains were tasty. At any rate, we noticed the pizzas that everyone else was getting &, unlike the place last night, these looked good. So, tonite, after drinks & appertivo at the Cafe St. Ambrogio, we walked the block to try the pizzas.
                      Anyone who has ever been on the NYC Outerboroughs Board knows that we all are very opinionated about our pizza. Having been going to DiFara's in Brooklyn since I was 15 (that's 45 years for anyone who cares to know) its clear what camp I'm in. But, as much as I have my preferences, I enjoy many types of pizza. I also know when it's done "right" inside of its own genre. Well, this was a very long winded way of saying that Le Compane's pizzas are very good. Wood fired oven, using dough that has a good chew & is thick enough to withstand toppings without overwhelming them, we ate 2 excellent pizzas tonite. Mine was with excellent tomato sauce (almost paste) and had fresh non heated globs of burrata and fresh basil leaves (called Molisane). Great! Ginny's was the more traditional 4 Stagione pizza and the mozz., the ham & the artichokes were very good over a less thick tomato base. The olives werent worth much, but overall quite a nice rendition. We spent 25euros total with plenty of house red wine, water & cover/tip. I can now see why the place is popular. Puts Grimaldi's to shame & is a notch above Juliana's (more Brooklyn reference points).

                      1. re: Steve R
                        d
                        DavyTheFatBoy Sep 1, 2013 05:44 AM

                        We were quite happy with the pizza at Il Pizzaiuolo
                        Via de' Macci 113/r, right across the street from Cibreo.

                        1. re: DavyTheFatBoy
                          Steve R Sep 1, 2013 06:12 AM

                          And I'm sure we would have been as well but they insisted on going on vacation the day we intended to eat there. After eating elsewhere the night before, we went by (it was 5 blocks from our apt. and right around the corner from Cafe St. Ambrogio, where we hung out a lot) & said "see you tomorrow". Saying (in charming Italian, of course) "no, you won't" & informing us that their vacation started the next day, they offered to make us a 2nd dinner that night but even I couldn't eat any more food (well, my wife insisted that we not try). Oh well... next time.

                  2. re: Steve R
                    Steve R Aug 16, 2013 04:55 AM

                    Apparently, I'm going to have to do better research before going out & finding places. Turns out that Pork's is included in Eliz. M.'s "Eat Florence" app. And as a recommendation from Judy Witt to boot. At least I know enough to like these "discoveries" I'm making ;-).

                    1. re: Steve R
                      Steve R Aug 22, 2013 06:42 AM

                      Lest it appear that our entire month of eating was spent on "down home traditional" (with the exception of il Santo Bevitore), let me (well, I guess you have no choice unless you stop reading) write about two exceptional meals we've had at not so usual places.

                      La Cucina del Garga runs cooking classes as well as a restaurant &, although Chef Alessandro Gargani (who returned to Florence 3 years ago to open this place after cheff'ing in NY's Soho for several years) was in the kitchen, so was his more locally famous mother, the chef of the now closed original Garga restaurant. A lovely, quirky space full of local artwork (including a classical nude statue with a baseball bat in his hand), the kitchen served us one of our top dinners of the month. We had a bottle of red wine (Carmignano '08) that was underpriced at 36euro, a split order of the eggplant/ricotta croquettes (crocchette - 5 golf ball sized), a split order of Fettucini "Magnifico" (orange & lemon zest and some mint), some comp'ed bruschetta (great deep, rich tomato sauce), mains of branzino (filet) & calves liver (2 very large, tender pieces) w/potatoes, cheesecake (mom's specialty), espressos & comp'ed lemoncellos (would've preferred grappa) -- all (& I mean all) were superb! Start to finish, just about "spot on" (I'm picking up some English while here). Total was 115euros before tip (we left 10%, the service was great as well & I just cant leave less). We may wind up going back before we leave.

                      The other great meal was at Zeb's, a modernized place at the foot of the uphill trek to Piazzale Michelangelo. Another mother & son team, its a spartan counter seating place found in Eliz. Minchilli's app. and a gem. He'll pour just about anything in stock (did I mention its a wine store, butcher & grocery?) so we wound up with by the glass pours of whites (good reisling& pinot blanc) & super-Tuscan reds, with more than a bottle's worth adding up to under 30euros -- an absurdly low price, even for Florence. Ginny's pear/ricotta ravioli had a pear "sauce" that was almost a compote and was terrific. My ravioli's pesto was of zucchini flowers, pine nuts and almonds, almost appearing as a yellow curry sauce but with clear tastes of its ingredients. Ginny's main of eggplant parm. was not breaded nor fried but was more of a baked casserole looking version - very nice. My main of bollito was several thin tender strips of lean, tasty meat under a very solid version of salsa verde as it should taste - fresh & clean. Coffees, no dessert (looked good but I wanted gelato on the walk home so...). Total was 75euros. I dont know how they stay in business. Glad we caught them just before they closed for vacation.

                      1. re: Steve R
                        jen kalb Aug 22, 2013 07:40 AM

                        Ive really been enjoying your reports and its great to hear about these two in particular. Since the restaurant database was killed they had sort of fallen of my radar screen.

                        Hope you can keep up the pace!

                        1. re: jen kalb
                          Steve R Aug 22, 2013 08:42 AM

                          Thanks. We leave Florence on Sun. for 2 last days in Rome. Then it's home to Bklyn. Gotta figure out which places to go back to these last few nights.

                          1. re: Steve R
                            b
                            barberinibee Aug 23, 2013 12:41 AM

                            Thanks from me for taking time to do this. On my most recent visits to Florence I've only had time to pop in and out for a day or two, and the city is so beautiful, I often wish I could spend a month there. This will be useful indeed if I ever get to work that out.

                            1. re: barberinibee
                              Steve R Aug 24, 2013 03:38 AM

                              barberinibee- your posts here (& in NYC) have always been helpful & appreciated so, if this thread assists you in any way, I'm glad. The same holds true for many others who live in Italy & whose words have gotten me places I would never have found otherwise -- especially Eliz. M., Katie (who I had a chance to meet at the NYTimes Travel Show this year), vinoroma & Maureen Fant. And, of course, my fellow NY travelers, Jen Kalb & erica (a regular eating companion back home).

                              That being said, a couple more notes from this stay in Florence:

                              -we returned to La Cucina del Garga last night & had another excellent meal. Chef Gargani has a knack for livening up some standards & my strozzapreti was in a lime & pistachio pesto that may not work for everyone, but was a winner in my book. Ginny's ravioli w/babbo's secret meat sauce was thick, rich & another winner, as were the mains of sliced veal (at room temp.) & fillet steak (not the on the bone Florentine one). I like the place in every way & recommend it.

                              -our dinner at le Barrique, in S. Frediano, was also excellent. Beautiful romantic outdoor dining under a trellis, nicely priced & well selected wine list, and well prepared, tasty & interesting food throughout. A comp'ed glass of Prosecco to start, 3amuses (tuna tartare on a spoon, zucchini puree in a shot glass & a dab of mousse on a piece of hard toast - all good), a millefeuille app to share, lasagnette (room temp.) & ravioli w/grouper primi's, duck breast & salt cod secondi's and a dessert, comp'ed coffees, grappa & moscato, it cost a very reasonable 120euros before tip. Another recommendation from me, especially for the jazz that was played throughout (Ella, Louis A., Billie...)

                              -all were not winners over the course of the month. Less successful meals were had at Quatro Leone & La Pentola dell Oro -- maybe I'll give more details some other time.

                              Enough for now. Off to Roma for 2 days before going home. Where should I eat? :-)

                              1. re: Steve R
                                Steve R Sep 1, 2013 06:44 AM

                                I just want to close out this thread by explaining the not so good meals and listing places that we intended to go but couldnt because of their vacations (for anyone perusing this thread down the road and looking for more suggestions).

                                The not so good:

                                First La Pentola dell Oro. Maybe it was their impending vacation, maybe the chef was already gone, maybe it was the large tour group in the downstairs room, maybe it was just an off night. Whatever. The food we ate was not inspired and looked thrown together. Hardly what was expected, given the reviews... if anything, I thought it would be high on motivation & innovation and maybe light on some of the ideas "working". Oh well. And the service was uncaring (and that's an understatement). Not busy doing other things (unless you count talking to each other, hanging out not paying attention to customers, etc). Didnt tell us about the specials (there were some and another waitress recounted them to a later table in our hearing range), didnt come check on us (the other waitress took pity once when she glanced over) and wasn't interested in pacing our meal or making sure we got what we ordered. And left sitting for 15 minutes AFTER we asked for the check. As I said, maybe just an unfortunate confluence of events & others may have a vastly different experience.

                                Secondly, Quatro Leone. We were treating 3 others from the wedding we attended and 2 of our 5 spoke Italian. My wife made reservations for the outdoor area the day before and yet, when they saw us (we're clearly Americans and not what they expected, given the Italian spoken on the phone), the outdoor area was "regretfully" totally booked (there were still tables empty awaiting reservations; including, I assume, ours) and we were ushered into the indoor American section. I understand the concept of English speaking waiters having a station so that communication is easier. I also understand that, even with 2 Italian speakers in our party, it is more inclusive for everyone to be able to speak with the waitstaff. But we wanted the outdoor area (it's lovely) and it really was available. And...I don't understand the subsequent upsell by a relentless waiter who wanted to entertain the tourists and the attempt to impress Americans with a schtick that would have meant his immediate hire in any NYC Little Italy tourist joint. Not fun. Less so when he messed up the orders and brought wrong dishes, then tried to explain it away by blaming our friend, who had been clear with his order in both English and Italian. Much less so when he started talking (near the end of the meal when he brought the comp'ed lemoncello that everyone gets anyway) about how German and French tourists don't tip the way Americans do. As I said, I was treating others and didn't want to start a scene with a waiter that had drama potential, so he got his American tip. But, unfortunately for the restaurant, it'll be offset by a series of negative write ups here and elsewhere. By the way, the food was ok... nothing more, nothing less. Eh.

                                Places we didnt get to but would have had high hopes for:
                                Sostanza (been before, loved it)
                                Trat. Il Contadino
                                Vini e Vecchi Sapori
                                All'Antico Ristoro di Cambi
                                Alla Vecchio Bettola
                                Fagioli
                                Il Guscio (been before, loved it)
                                Zibibbo (just never got up the energy to get that far off the beaten path for dinner)

                                Caio Firenze. See you again soon (I hope).

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